When Can a Defendant Be Excused from Satisfying the Cause-And-Prejudice Test ?

In People v. Ortiz, 235 Ill. 2d 319, 919 N.E.2d 941, 336 Ill. Dec. 16 (2009), the defendant alleged actual innocence in each of his three successive postconviction petitions. In his third successive postconviction petition, the defendant based his claim on testimony provided in his second postconviction petition as well as newly discovered evidence from two affidavits provided by additional, newly discovered eyewitnesses. The trial court found that the repeated testimony was barred under the doctrine of res judicata, but held a third-stage hearing based on the allegedly newly discovered eyewitness testimony. One witness testified at the hearing that he was initially scared to talk to the police because of repercussions from his gang and that he moved to Wisconsin after the shooting. More than 10 years later, he finally provided testimony in his affidavit to assuage his guilt and "'get it off [his] chest.'" Ortiz, 235 Ill. 2d at 327. The witness testified that he knew the defendant as another member of his gang and did not see the defendant on the night of the shooting. He also testified that he saw other members of their gang initially beat the victim and later chase and shoot at the victim. Ortiz, 235 Ill. 2d at 325-26. The trial court considered the testimony and found it insufficient to warrant a new trial as two eyewitnesses at trial identified the defendant as the shooter. The trial court opined that the newly discovered evidence was cumulative and, at trial, the eyewitnesses were determined to be credible. Therefore, it found that the defendant did not satisfy the cause-and-prejudice test to advance his successive petition. Ortiz, 235 Ill. 2d at 326-27. On appeal, this court reversed, finding that the defendant set forth a claim of actual innocence and, consistent with People v. Pitsonbarger, 205 Ill. 2d 444, 459, 793 N.E.2d 609, 275 Ill. Dec. 838 (2002), was excused from satisfying the cause-and-prejudice test. People v. Ortiz, 385 Ill. App. 3d 1, 10-13, 896 N.E.2d 791, 324 Ill. Dec. 715 (2008).